Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hornbeck) of a Conversation With the Counselor of the Japanese Embassy (Suma)

Mr. Suma called at his own request at 12:15 today.

Mr. Suma said that, with regard to the incident of the two American ladies at Peiping, his Embassy had received word this morning direct from Peiping that an officer of the Embassy there had now expressed regret to an officer of the American Embassy. He inquired whether we had had any report. I said that we had not. He said that he thought that we would receive one.

Mr. Suma then said that a representative of an American film company had come to his Embassy yesterday about one of the representatives of the company who had been detained in Peiping by Japanese (Mr. Suma said “our people”). He said that the Embassy had sent an inquiry to Tokyo and that Tokyo had replied that they were looking into the matter. Mr. Suma inquired whether we had had word of this incident. I replied that we had been informed yesterday that an American engaged in photographing, together with his wife, had been detained by Japanese and that we had sent an inquiry to Peiping but had not yet received an answer. Mr. Suma said that he thought the matter would be taken care of appropriately.

Mr. Suma then said that, with regard to the incident of an unfortunate contact between Japanese soldiers and the French soldiers at the bridge at Tientsin, the Japanese military authorities had made appropriate expression of regret to the French military authorities and the matter was settled.

Mr. Suma then said that, with regard to the incident in which the Soviet Consulate at Tientsin had been raided “by some of our people” (sic) and some of their archives “taken”, the newspapers had reported [Page 244] that this might lead to serious trouble between Japan and the Soviet Union; but that this was not true, the matter had already been settled amicably.

Mr. Suma then inquired whether we had had reports of any other unfortunate incidents. I said that we had not; but that we had had reports to the effect that some Japanese are alleging that Chinese military refugees have made their way into the French and the British Concessions at Tientsin. I said that this was unbelievable on its face; that it was our understanding that the British and the French armed detachments are preventing the entry of any Chinese refugees into their Concessions; that all accounts have stated that thousands of refugees were turned back on Saturday and that something like 40,000 refugees had gone around to the former German Concession area and, on pressing on a region which the American troops are guarding, were being refused entry there. I said that it would be very unfortunate for all concerned if Japanese troops made hostile contact with or any hostile moves against the foreign troops, who are simply protecting their own nationals in small areas which cannot possibly serve any military purpose. Mr. Suma said that such a development would certainly be most unfortunate and that he knew that the Japanese were trying to prevent any such thing. He said that the Japanese Embassy here is constantly warning against there being permitted to occur any unfortunate incidents involving American or other foreign nationals, and that his Government seems to be taking his Embassy’s representations in good part.

Mr. Suma said that there was a matter which he would like to bring up informally: he had seen in the newspapers a story to the effect that at Los Angeles a certain man who had been an aviation adviser to Chiang Kai-shek was talking of recruiting American fliers for service in China; the paper had given the figure 182; the Japanese Consul General at Los Angeles had reported to the Embassy that the “atmosphere in Los Angeles seemed to be opposed to this” project but that the promoter seemed to be going ahead with it; Mr. Suma asked whether we had received any information about it. I replied that I had seen in the press the story to which Mr. Suma referred but that I had no other information.31 Mr. Suma then went on to say that the going of American aviators to serve in Chinese military forces would have a very unpleasant effect upon Japanese public opinion. He mentioned the incident of an American flier who took part in operations at the time of the Shanghai incident in 1932.32 He said that this had created “heat” among the Japanese people. He spoke at some length on this subject in a way which indicated that [Page 245] he was very solicitous that American fliers should not go to China. He asked whether, if the report proved true, the State Department would take any action. He wanted an expression of my personal opinion. I replied that I could not venture to say what the Department might do and that in any case action, if taken, would presumably be by some other agency of the Government than the Department of State. Mr. Suma said that he was speaking only informally but that he thought the matter was of importance.

Mr. Suma then said that he hoped that we would keep him promptly and fully informed if we get news of any incidents. I said that I would be glad to do so.

S[tanley] K. H[ornbeck]
  1. For information on American aviators in China, see pp. 520 ff.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1932, vol. iii, pp. 451 ff.